Helio Castroneves converted his record-setting pole position into a wire-to-wire victory Sunday in the 83-lap Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway. It was the Brazilian's third win of the season -- all of which have been earned on...
Helio Castroneves converted his record-setting pole position into a wire-to-wire victory Sunday in the 83-lap Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway. It was the Brazilian's third win of the season -- all of which have been earned on permanent road courses or temporary street circuits. The fuel-saving strategy of Team Penske allowed Castroneves and teammate Gil de Ferran to repeat the one-two finish the duo achieved at Mid-Ohio last month. De Ferran assumed the lead in the drivers' championship race, while Castroneves' 22 points moved him into seventh position with four races remaining in the season.
Mercedes-Benz driver Mauricio Gugelmin extended a streak of his own on Sunday, recording his fifth points-scoring finish in his last six career starts at the 2.238-mile Laguna Seca permanent road course. Gugelmin started in seventh position and enjoyed quick pit stops thanks to his PacWest Nextel Mercedes crew. He finished seventh, 14.814 seconds behind the winner.
"The car was very well balanced today and I was able to save a lot of fuel," said Gugelmin, who earned his fifth top-10 finish of the season.
Gugelmin teammate Mark Blundell started in 21st position and drove his Motorola Mercedes hard all day, routinely running lap times that were as quick as -- or quicker than -- the leaders. The British driver moved up steadily throughout the race and finished 13th.
"I was pushing hard all day, running quick laps and saving fuel," said Blundell. "Our strategy was right given our starting position, and we gained places. We had a little balance problem early, but we took some front wing out of the car on our first stop, and we were fine after that."
Tony Kanaan's day ended early after a series of misadventures. Kanaan started in 12th position, but dropped back to 22nd place when his Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes stalled on his first pit stop on Lap 27. Kanaan fought back to 14th place by the second round of pit stops. Shortly afterward, he encountered brake problems, and the Brazilian plowed off-course at Turn Two. Kanaan off-roaded through the sand and gravel run-off areas but with skillful driving was able to return his Champ Car to the racing surface and make it back to pit lane. He retired on Lap 69 in 22nd place. "What a day," said Kanaan. "It turned out to be one of those days you want to forget, which is really sad because this is one of my best race tracks. All I have to say is, 'meet me in St. Louis.'"
Luiz Garcia Jr. finished 20th in his Hollywood/Arciero Project Racing Group Mercedes, while Michel Jourdain Jr. dropped out just past the halfway point after an incident with Alex Tagliani and finished 24th.
The four remaining races will challenge the Champ Car teams, as competitors will face three very different types of circuits: the short oval (Gateway), temporary street circuits (Houston and Australia) and a superspeedway (Fontana).